Friday, 2 January 2015

Ever wanted to name something in astronomy?

Have you ever wanted to name a star? Or a planet? Or maybe a whole galaxy? Maybe you paid someone to name a star for you and even received an offical-looking certificate in the post to prove it, only to then find out that no-one actually used your name.

Well if this sounds familiar, then I have some good news for you! The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has launched a competition to officially decide names for five new impact craters discovered on the planet Mercury, and they need your help to do this!

A map of Mercury's surface taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft, showing all the impact craters (Credit: NASA)

The impact craters were discovered by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, which has been orbiting the planet Mercury since March 2011. The spacecraft is only the second mission to successfully reach Mercury, and is the first to orbit the planet, which is quite an achievement due to how close Mercury is to the Sun!

The mission has been an immense success. Since the spacecraft arrived in orbit around Mercury four years ago it has been continually studying and imaging the planet's surface. Using these images scientists have discovered many new features on the surface of Mercury that were previously unknown, including lots of new impact craters.

It is important that these craters, which are of great scientific interest, be named in the long-held tradition of naming astronomical objects and features. Impact craters on Mercury are traditionally named after important people in the arts and humanities from anywhere in the world.

So the IAU would like your help in nominating who to name these craters after. According to their rules they will accept nominations for names of people in the arts and humanities who have been famous for at least 50 years and have been dead for at least 3 years (so no self-nominations unfortunately). You can find a list of existing named craters on Mercury here.

You can submit your nomination here: Nominations are open until 15 January 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment